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Social Work Values and Ethics Essay

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This paper will discuss the key features of domestic violence (DV), how social workers currently intervene from a critical perspective when tackling DV, the benefits and limitations of critical social work in the DV area, and the usefulness of the critical approach in alignment with social works purpose, values, and ethics. Domestic violence refers to violence experienced by a partner or family member through coercive, threatening, or controlling behavior, enabling any type of dominance and control over the victim, encompassing sexual, physical, emotional, social, and financial types of abuses (Robbins & Cook, 2018). It is usually perpetrated by men victimizing their female or male partners and the children in relationships (Paredes, Roberts, Ruvo, & Stuart, 2018). Gender inequality is a key social condition of this issue with DV’s existence continuing within global human rights, intimate relationships, and economic areas (Papáček, 2018). This issue is caused by sexist oppression and systemic patriarchism within gender politics around the world, with power playing a critical role in facilitating DV (McGirr & Sullivan, 2016; Morley & Dunstan, 2016). Gender stereotypes portrayed by the media, inequality observed in the government body and societies’ cultural outlook on women’s roles in the world all play a part in facilitating gender inequality (Papáček, 2018).

The gender stereotypes creating this inequality exist as a result of historical and current beliefs about the roles women play in families and beliefs about their inferiority to males (Papáček, 2018). The key individual, social, relationship, and community factors facilitating and enabling the development of DV are categorized under risk factors associated with creating DV environments (Papáček, 2018). Individual factors in partners include childhood exposure to DV; excessive alcohol consumption; low age associated with maturity, physical and psychological predispositions; drug use; mental illnesses; major depressive disorders; low-income employment resulting in financial instability; anger issues, and low education level (Papáček, 2018). Social factors include beliefs about men leading the family, that men have superior status to women who are inferior, that women should take care of households holding wife and mother roles, and the continued existence of norms that facilitate violence and these beliefs (Papáček, 2018). Relationship factors include arguments between family members; the presence of excessively dominating men; history of pathological or criminal behavior in their family; relationship instability; preference for one child over others; family incompleteness; financial imbalance between partners and poverty (Papáček, 2018). Community environment factors include the absence of effective legislations and policies tackling violence; hardships in proving DV’s existence in cases; minor punishments for perpetrators; low societal awareness and education on DV; weak community solidity; disinterest and low public kindness towards issues such as victim blaming (Papáček, 2018). The authoritarian position of men has also enabled violence against women, men, and children through stigmatized beliefs and ignorance of the vastness of the issue and as the issue as a problem (Papáček, 2018).

Current social workers’ critical practice in DV for a better social outcome would include collective consciousness-raising through organized rallies and the provision of education and prevention programs which are community-based responses preferred by the minority ethnic, African, and indigenous women (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013). These aim to spread awareness of the issue, break down DV misconceptions and eliminate victim blaming, enabling victims to support and be supported (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013). Social workers guaranteeing victims’ voices are leading interventions, ensuring their needs are met and they are supported by agencies efficiently is also a form of current critical social work practice (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013). A practitioner working from a critical perspective is advocating for the engagement of survivors in informing policies and service development and improving preventative work on the macro scale (Keeling & Wormer, 2012).

Another realistic example of critical social work is the practitioners responding to the mental health needs of survivors with a trauma-informed framework through individual/group counseling supporting victims isolated due to inappropriate service responses and perpetrators’ actions, underpinned by feminism, advocacy, and social justice (Hackett, McWhirter & Lesher, 2016; AASW, 2010). This response was created from hearing what services the survivors wanted (Hackett, McWhirter & Lesher, 2016). It also encompasses social workers actively working within the anti-oppressive approach framework to integrate less westernized interventions and instead integrating individuals’ experiences and prevention endeavors to build more effective knowledge bases which can be used across countries (Svoboda, 2015). Legal interventions through critical practice are perpetrator programs aimed at changing perpetrators’ behaviors through education and cognitive-behavioral therapy to prevent their mentality from cycling onto their children and prevent future/current partners from being abused (Day, Chung, O’Leary, & Carson, 2009). Men can self-refer to this intervention or be mandated by the courts to attend (Svoboda, 2015). This intervention is aimed to reduce the occurrence of DV whilst ensuring it does not enable the re-victimization of individuals who have been abused (Day et al, 2009). In addition to that, social workers also currently intervene critically by gaining knowledge and understanding surrounding women’s responses to DV to inform current and future interventions from a critical lens, enabling broader perspectives to be taken into account (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013).

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Critical social work in DV allows macro cultural changes to be addressed through a preventative intervention in relation to gender issues facilitating and creating DV through a critically reflective approach used by progressive practitioners (Morley & Dunstan, 2016). It aims to change individuals and the community’s consciousness, DV policies, and resource allocation is in line with survivors’ want of acknowledging the issue as a gendered human rights matter by advocating for change facilitated through societal structures (Morley & Dunstan, 2016). The benefit of applying critical social work to domestic violence practice is that it enables practitioners in creating interventions based on men changing behaviors, attitudes, and inequalities created by men’s social beliefs on DV and gender equality (Flood, 2015). This would be the most effective way to reduce and prevent men’s violence whilst reducing gender inequality (Flood, 2015). This type of critical social work practice is a feminist approach ensuring men’s active engagement in prevention programs and policies, with respect to social work values and ethics of finding the roots of the issue and addressing it (Flood, 2015). Another benefit is taking part in critical consciousness-raising which aligns with social work values, ethics, and purpose as it works with empowering practices DV advocates work to achieve (McGirr & Sullivan, 2016). Their empowering practices are individualized towards each client’s needs, driven by the survivors, transparent, and based on egalitarian values which social work practices are driven by (McGirr & Sullivan, 2016). These all work towards giving power to survivors to take control of their lives and choices whilst simultaneously tackling their oppression upfront (McGirr & Sullivan, 2016). Critical consciousness benefits marginalized groups of individuals giving them others to relate to and producing constructive responses to the discrimination they face, leading to greater socio-political empowerment (McGirr & Sullivan, 2016).

Critical social work in DV is beneficial as it empowers practitioners to link to practitioners in other fields, enabling them to take part in discussions and reflections which improves their ability to do what is best for their clients with individual and multiagency work (Peckover & Golding, 2015). This enables practitioners to protect children in DV and allows survivors to get more support and resources whilst prioritizing and improving the safety of women and children (Peckover & Golding, 2015). It allows practitioners to meet the individual intervention needs of clients more effectively in the community by understanding their situations from different perspectives and knowing about different response strategies which can effectively counteract the perpetrator and the risk they present (Peckover & Golding, 2015). Limitations presented by critical social work in DV are towards immigrant women who report their offenders expecting help but are instead thrown in detention centers or deported, receiving little to no support (Kim, 2013). Furthermore, the minority DV victims who are women of color aren’t being heard and their needs are not met relevantly due to language barriers (Grossman & Lundy, 2007). Critical social work in DV has also been aimed more predominantly at the macrosystem compared to the microsystem where these women want to have cultural differences understood by social workers whilst gaining support in maintaining their traditional ways of living, eating, and engaging with services (Grossman & Lundy, 2007). This can make it easier for these women to ask for support in an environment they know is inviting and relevant to their ways of life (Grossman & Lundy, 2007). As well as that, people of color are more likely to be incarcerated, subjecting them to prison which may not effectively work to change their behavior (Kim, 2013). Critical social workers have not yet critically taken into account cultural sensitivity in holding perpetrators accountable not just through perpetrator behavior programs but through more culturally sensitive and acceptable ways to effectively make a change in their behavior (Kim, 2013).

The critical social work lens is useful in addressing DV with respect to the purpose social work holds overall as they both have correlating ethics and values utilized throughout the practices upheld. Critical social work aims to empower survivors through their work by viewing survivors as experts in their lives, and utilizes critical reflection to create awareness of current power dynamics in services and interventions which also enables underlying assumptions about survivors to be addressed (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013). Critical social work relies on working to understand the issue from a holistic, individual, and community perspective, being knowledgeable on policies and laws already in place or being made currently, before interventions are created and action is taken (Laing, Humphreys, & Cavanagh, 2013). This aligns with the social work approach of understanding issues in the microsystem, mesosystem, and macrosystem which aligns with its values shaped by the human rights and person-in-environment frameworks (Azzopardi & McNeil, 2016). Through the feminist framework, both critical social workers and social work ethics focus on ensuring the safety and autonomy of victims of DV whilst holding perpetrators accountable and responsible for their actions (Wendt, 2014). Social workers’ values in critical social work align with social work itself as they are supporting and advocating for victims whilst ensuring they are believed and their voices are heard (Svoboda, 2015).

The critical social work lens values self-determination and enhancing the self-worth and dignity of survivors consistently ensuring it is incorporated in approaches put forward by following a strengths-based social work perspective (Keeling & Wormer, 2012). These work towards the purpose of social work in addressing social injustices created by inequalities within community and government structures (Dore, 2019). Social work also aims to empower the people it works with by ensuring their voices are heard, and they are able to take part in informing the policy, legislation, and intervention construction, around issues they have experienced, which critical social work aims to do too (Dore, 2019). Critical social work works with social work’s core value of emancipating individuals from oppression, which in this issue is created by dominant power relations men hold and the inequality it brings between men and women, currently being addressed by critical social workers (Dore, 2019). Critical social work also has a core focus on applying anti-oppressive practices and principles to the work they do when addressing power imbalances to create a more fair environment (Azzopardi & McNeil, 2016). It also practices critical self-awareness of their understanding, knowledge, and bias they may hold about DV, perpetrators, survivors, and causes, which is an important aspect in social work as it provides practitioners with continuous reflection which continuously improves practice (Azzopardi & McNeil, 2016). They both effectively work working toward the goals of prioritizing core values of social work which are human rights, social justice, and professional integrity in the workplace (AASW, 2010).

Overall domestic violence is a worldwide issue resulting from gender inequality which critical social work can effectively work towards eliminating, as it works around the core ethics, values, and purpose of social work. Critical social work can take many forms such as individual, community, and societal based, working towards goals of maintaining social justice, human rights, and professional integrity. Critical social work brings about different perspectives which enable the practice of better interventions. It is useful for social workers as it continuously enables reflective thinking, allowing social work practice to improve continuously over time.

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Social Work Values and Ethics Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
“Social Work Values and Ethics Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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